Friday, February 28, 2020

Twitter Misbehavior by agents

In yesterday's blog post I asked you for things that drive you crazy.
NORMAN of course was the leading vote getter. More on that at a later date.

One comment that popped out was from Nicole:**
Twitter Misbehavior
This could be an entire comment/article unto itself, but it’s really demoralizing to see agents taking to public-facing Twitter to complain about their day-to-day. 
Every industry has crappy aspects you complain about with your coworkers, but you do it at the water cooler or in a private Slack. You don’t take to Twitter where your potential clients and current clients can see you. 
Watching agents subtweet honest mistakes on queries, give air to the trolls in their inboxes, blame writers for daring to get an offer on a manuscript they’ve left sitting in their inbox for months and months and then not notifying them (b/c of the NORMAN expectation, but only sometimes) or not giving them long enough to read (despite giving the industry standard of 10 days to 3 weeks)—it’s exhausting and feels so much like a punch-down. 
This also applies to agents always complaining about how busy they are for such little money; newsflash to them, what do you think writers do before they’re signed? 
We work for years just trying to get to an agent inbox, with no money, no professional input, no expectation of anyone giving a damn for quite possibly decades. 
Writers have 2, 3, 4, and more jobs alongside their writing and are told to “take their complaints to the group chat” by agents who don’t bother to do just that. We work for pennies, too. I know working on commission isn’t great when you start, but it’s what you signed up for, right?

I could go on and on, but it’s the hypocrisy, the punch-downs, the subtweets, lack of centralization, and the non-responses, mainly.


I think one of the reasons this behaviour has gone unchecked is no one calls them on it.

Writers don't -- they're terrified of being blacklisted, or burning bridges.

Agents don't  -- they don't want to burn bridges either or alienate people we might have to work with down the road. Publishing is a small small industry, and if you don't know everyone, it's cause you haven't been here forever like the rest of us.

I don't -- I think it shows what kind of agent they are, and thus MORE GOOD QUERIES FOR MEEEEEEE.

So maybe we need a false flag Twitter account to throw some shade:
"Nice to see agents complaining about low pay to authors who have no pay"

"Always glad to hear agents complain they didn't have a chance to read a ms that sold, cause it was only in their inbox for three months"

"Agents requesting fulls should be required to sign an NDA: no disappearing allowed."
We should ask Felix Buttonweezer if he's available.

In the meantime, there are a lot of agents on Twitter who don't do this; and there are a lot of agents who aren't on Twitter at all. Prioritize accordingly.

**Nicole, if you'll email me with your preferred mailing address, 
and what kinds of books you love, 
you've earned a prize for providing blog fodder!


E.M. Goldsmith said...

well-done, Nicole. You did well.

nightsmusic said...

Nicole I completely agree and you stated it perfectly.

This is another reason I'm not on Twitter though I still have an account. We all have things we don't like, about life, our jobs, other people. Twitter has become primarily a clearing house for complaints and outrage. I don't have time for that. Yes, I could go to Twitter to complain about how, being a pantser, I've been stuck in one spot in my story for over a month, but I don't. I continue working on the problem instead. Think of all the time wasted by the agents who are complaining and how that time could be better spent actually reading what's in their inbox. I have to wonder how they think it affects the writers out there who are searching for an agent and are reading those complaints. If they have more time to complain on Twitter than they do going through their inbox, how little time would they have for an actual client?

Unknown said...

I share a similar attitude with Nicole. I have a twitter account, but I pretty much just want to share Thoughts of Dog and We Rate Dog tweets and then get off the platform before I get sucked into the vitriol. It's not just the publishing industry, but politics, celebrities, etc. I'm not really into outrage porn and the Twitter cup runneth over with that crap.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats, Nicole!! :)

My guess is that agents get overwhelmed with the large amount of queries they receive--a number that has probably grown exponentially since querying went digital. This would account both for NORMAN-ing and for getting very specific with their query guidelines.

I say this not to defend either of these practices, but to try to understand why an agent might do such things. Don't misunderstand, I think most agents perform a valuable service to writers and earn their 15%. However, agents also need to bear in mind that writers have more options now. Self publishing is a respectable journey for a writer, and one that can be quite lucrative if you know what you're doing and are prepared to work hard.

It seems to me some agents need to remember this, and perhaps eat a little humble pie and realize that without those queries, they don't have a job. That slush pile could run dry any time. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to be a bit more accommodating. Maybe sacrifice a few minutes to replying to queries. Maybe keep some opinions to the office and leave Twitter for building positive relationships.

Just some thoughts... :)

Craig F said...

I was kind of partial to Noise In Space's blast off. The lack of defining genres is worse than most Twitter misbehavior. There are only a couple of agents that are childish enough to continually rant about writers.

Most Twitter goofs are just that. It can, sometimes, make the offending agent seem more human. Building and maintaining the fallacies of what genre they are best at is more deliberate.

Kitty said...

Well put, Julie. We lived in a Buddy trailer for two years. Our children were born during that time. That was a long time ago, and I still cringe when I hear/read people use that term "trailer park trash."

Hope Clark said...

I do not often leave comments on blog posts, and I usually let blog soliciting comments pass. However, I have had as much bad experience as good experience with agents in my 20 years as a novelist and founder of My biggest gripe is behavior of agents at conferences. I've been on faculty with them, been on panels with them, sat in the audience with them, dined with them during banquets. I never fail to see one (or more) talk down to writers, snicker behind writers' backs, or snicker at speakers. That public presence matters so much. Such emphasis is on writers to be perfect, unique and attractive, but agents not so much. Nobody wants to have to kiss a ring. But it hurts my heart watching some of this behavior, a lot of which they think nobody sees. . . or thinks because I'm faculty I am like them. But...that said, there are some agents that I refuse to endorse on FundsforWriters just from what I've seen from conferences. And when I'm talking one-on-one with writers, I tell them by name who they are.

theblondepi said...

Julie Weathers I wish I had a trailer. Yours sounds lovely!

Sherry Howard said...

So much yes, Nicole!

On the flip side though are those kind agents who do “ask agent” posts, or who make themselves available to answer questions on Twitter. Or, those really special agents who keep up blogs that are pure kindness—don’t tell the shark it’s being kind!

Katja said...

Colin, Just some thoughts? Well, I FULLY agree with you. For once, ha ha ;).

Alyssa R said...

Yay Nicole!

I can't believe how much I've learned from this and yesterday's posts/comments! Including re-learning something I already kinda knew: I do not want a Twitter account (but I'm still wondering if it's sort of a necessity).

Hope Clark, thank you for leaving a comment. I'm going to my first conference soon, and I will definitely keep an eye out for Those Agents.

Colin Smith said...

Katja: Ha! Thank you. :D

Katja said...

Welcome, Colin.

Oh, and Reef, OT, may I cry my eyes out of my head:

My biggest hope regarding help for my book has just dissolved. I'd sent it to a journalist from the Washington Post (or The Atlantic, I'm not sure where he now belongs to) and he has now had the time to read it and respond to me.

He said he can't recommend it, because of the way it's written. It's always been my worry. And now I have it confirmed. I think I can just throw in the towel.

Here's the main thing he wrote (and I'm NOT angry, I'm just sad I wrote something 'so unrecommendable'):

"One of Us Has To Go may prove a steep challenge: its high concept--and its complex chronology and its considerable length--may daunt people. For that reason I'd have a hard time recommending it for a broad general readership."

I am really grateful for this man to have given me some of his precious time. But now I am like... I don't know. I shouldn't have written and spent all those years on this damn thing. I am DAUNTING people - I should have known better!

The Noise In Space said...

Oh, Katja, I'm so sorry. That must have been so hard to hear. Sending lots of hugs.

ashland said...

i don't mind the twitter complaints from agents so much, as long as A) it's general--nothing calling out a specific (i.e. identifiable) writer and B) it's not constant and C) it's not petty or malicious.

if anything, reading dumb-writer-mistakes can be somewhat entertaining and even stress-reducing. i try to think of it like this: at least i didn't mass email my query to every agent on my list, at least i didn't reply to a pass by insulting the agent, at least i followed the basic SGs, at least i'm keeping my head above the failing line. and it's the last one that helps alleviate the undue writer anxiety i sometimes have--by knowing that even if i'm not getting results, at least i'm not epically failing.

i suppose a pet peeve of mine, aside from NRMN, is when i have to spend 30-60 minutes searching your (the plural you) agent site, your personal blog, your twitter, your instagram, your facebook, your PM, your insert-whatever-here to track down something as simple as a MSWL (or even anti-MSWL). seems like that should be a big sign you'd want to hang outside your virtual office door for everyone to see: send me DINO EROTICA but don't send me OCTOPUS-DETECTIVE-HENTAI GRAPHIC NOVELS. while you may be proud that you graduated from Karkoon U or interned at the Forti Agency in their Deft-Usage department, we as writers don't care. as long as you're not a spaghetti agent, we'll take you. use your site's real estate better and get to the point. it'll only help both of us in the end.

Lennon Faris said...

Katja, I am so sorry to hear that. Sending you hugs as well. BEAR hugs.

Alyssa R said...


That dude. Seriously. He can't recommend it because it's long and complicated?
I know I'm not a typical reader. I read teen books at 6 and now read kid books. But still. I'm at the library, I see a thick novel like I imagine yours is, my eyes light up, and I read the cover. If it sounds interesting, it gets checked out. Yours, from the snippet QOTKU posted a few days ago and the Goodreads teaser, sounds amazing.

People still read long, complicated books-- as evidenced by the popularity of LOTR. Dude needs to remember that. Or maybe he just doesn't like your writing style?

'Unrecommendable' depends on your definition. I think I'm pretty good at getting people to read books I think they'll like! (I'm usually right, too, though my brothers never believe they'll like the book until they actually do.) I'm definitely asking the library if they have it or can get it next time I go SPECIFICALLY so I can read and recommend it, thereby proving him wrong.

Um. Sorry if that was not the reaction you hoped for. There is a part of me that delights in proving people wrong. Especially when they say things like "this book is long so no one will like it". What am I, chopped meatloaf?

At least he gave an in-depth review, more than just "nah, i think this sux".

Plus, if you liked it enough to spend years on it, what are the chances other people will like it enough to spend a few hours on it? I mean, there are 7 billion of us. Even if only 0.01 percent of people like your book, that's still...hold on, let me do the math...*gives up* a really big number.

Hm, that's a long comment. Guess that's what happens when you tell me someone said a book was 'unrecommendable' due to length and complexity (both of which make me go 'yay!').

Sending virtual hugs and peppermint tea with honey. I hope you feel better soon-- and I hope you never give up. It's a little late, I know, but congratulations on getting your book published!

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Katja, I'm so sorry! I have a dumb question however, is sending to a journalist rather than an agent or editor something specific to your type of story? I've never heard of that before. Anyway, it's one opinion and opinions are like noses; everyone has one and occasionally, one has to be blown. Loudly and obnoxiously.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


So sorry to hear this. Sending virtual hugs and chocolates your way.

Colin Smith said...

Katja: Seriously, don't let that feedback play on your mind. He's not saying it's a bad book. All he's saying (at least from what you reported) is that it's not the kind of book he thinks his readers would enjoy. And that's okay. There's nothing wrong with your book's depth or complexity.

It was good that he read your novel and let you know his thoughts. You know your book has an audience. People have been buying it, reading it, and recommending it. Sure, a review in a major publication would give it more visibility. BUT--that won't necessarily guarantee readers or sales.

Just say, "Thank you very much" and move on. Remember all the positive reviews (including mine). You're fine. Your book's good. Keep moving forward. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Katja Listen to Colin on this one. This is one opinion. No book is universally loved. That is just the way it is. Write on and do not let this one reviewer upset you. Sending hugs your way.

Katja said...

Thank you so much, everyone.

This man is a nice guy, I would say. He's a journalist who has reviewed another book on the topic of OCD, which has become very successful. That one is a memoir or narrative non-fiction.

The problem with mine is that it's a huge metaphor. Here is the twist: the two main characters are one and the same person, while the one without the OCD tries to fight off, even by attempting to kill her in an angry moment because she is so fed up with the life restrictions imposed on her.

I wrote a dark OCD story. This journalist has OCD himself, so he understands how sensitive the subject could be for other OCD sufferers if they read it.

Now I'm worried. I might really cause others some distress! I can see it. I'm even considering pulling it from Amazon. Or at least it should come with a warning.

I have told everyone, I'm not well read AT ALL (I recently finished my 10th novel only!), and I have never read Fight Club, but once someone told me my book was like that. Roughly.

It's not a nice read. It does have a little bit of humour, though.
So unless you don't give up reading, you won't know that the two main characters are the same person. And if an OCD sufferer reads this, not guessing the twist, they'll be frightened.

The book has about 390 pages. It's not super super long. But I know that most other OCD books are shorter. And they usually ALL have "OCD" in the title somewhere. Mine does not. Nowhere even in the blurb. No warning!
I wanted to wrap the subject into a story, not memoir or nonfiction or whatever.
I haven't described OCD as my 'enemy' in my head, like many people do it, I used "best friend". And then they fall out terribly. More like a bit feisty. Slapping in the face, shouting.

It's not for vulnerable OCD sufferers, dammit, I should have anticipated this. This dude is kind of right.

He wrote nicely. I just pasted the core of his message. He's a good guy, I think.

Thank you for all your lovely support and hugs and chocolates. I'll eat them tomorrow cause I already brushed my teeth. Ha ha, I'm smiling now, not crying. :)

Thank you wonderful Reef!! <3

NLiu said...

Oh, Katja! That must have been so hard to read :(

Also sending you hugs. Giant hugs and big boxes of tissues.

P.S. It sounds like reviewer man thinks most people who read books are dimwitted and your book is too clever for them. Scratching my head here at his assumptions. On the plus side, he thinks you wrote a clever book!?

Kae Ridwyn said...

Oh Katja, I'm sorry to hear that. Hang in there!

And Felix Buttonweezer has a twitter account? :)

Aphra Pell said...

Please, please, please DO NOT THROW IN THE TOWEL

Your book sounds really interesting and quite honestly, if you've pulled that narrative and twist off (and Colin's feedback suggests you definitely have), then holy flying kale, you must be one heck of a writer.

This guy's opinion is legitimate (as it is his personal opinion), but it's also one data point in a huge wide world of readers. Yes, he has OCD, but again, one data point. People with MH conditions are just as diverse as any other bunch of people.

If you are concerned about negatively impacting vulnerable people (which speaks well of you as a kind person), then put a content warning into your amazon listing. You don't need to spoil the plot, just say something like "this book contains potentially distressing plot points relating to living with OCD".

But do not dump your book, which you've invested so much work in, which other people love, because of one reviewer. Every single book ever writen will have at least one reader that hates it.

Chin up, eat chocolate, and keep going.

Kelly said...

Katja - in case you need to hear this alternative:

It is perfectly okay and acceptable for you to throw in the towel. I wish someone had said that to me when I was drowning in a research-intense doctoral program at a major US University. The decision to quit has no bearing on your worth as a person or your value as a writer. We all only have limited time available to us. IMO, it is brave to have invested yourself in something and then take a step back to see a bigger picture and move on. That doesn't mean you can't come back and pick up the towel again. But either way, whatever you decide is your choice and it is a valid one.

Katja said...

Well, as nightsmusic has suggested, I have blown my nose. Loudly. I know, you probably meant it somewhat differently, and I don't know this saying, but I have STILL blown my nose many times last night, sobbing.

So, now that stuff has been cleared and I am trying to think about what to do.

If I actually throw in the towel, then I lose the main bit of what keeps me going every day. Due to my OCD, I am too disabled to pick up a normal day job. I even lost on many years ago.

Being at home writing is SO cool for me. And because I want to do it, it has helped me to reduce my OCD, so I gain more hours per day not always 'doing OCD'. It's given me a real purpose.

I'm now thinking if I should approach marketing differently. Not try to 'sell' the topic of OCD but the story of the two best friends falling out after so many years. Hm...

If someone then buys the book, not knowing it's a lot (but NOT 100%) on OCD, but finding out it is, they might be p*ssed off with me. :/

Anyway, I will think more about what to do.

Aphra, your sentence that people with MH conditions are just as diverse as others got me thinking.
I love your 'assessment'!

Because YES, I have always been an outlier. Whereas most people want and find benefit from support groups/self-help, I hardly ever have. I learned, but I didn't feel more about them.

I was twice in a clinic for therapy, long time ago, and during the first stay, in the last week, I just wanted to go because I became depressed because of all the negativity that EVERYONE ALWAYS talked about. I had to stay away from the 'sobbing crowds' in order to cope. Right the opposite of everyone else.

It's similar with the OCD community on Twitter. People share their struggles. And it's not that I mind!!! I just noticed how a negative tweet gets DOZENS of likes, but when you say you're happy (and I am so happy these days), nobody wants to hear that, cause it hurts them. So I don't say I'm better and really happy.
When I was still VERY unwell, I still didn't want to join 'the same kind'. I remember how I went out and watched the dancing girls with makeup on and looking pretty. The opposite to me. My OCD held me back from being like them. I wanted it so badly, though, kept watching, it hurt me. But this pain caused sparks in me. I clung on to hope for improvement. Kept trying, surviving and fighting. And finally I got there. The way by being frustrated, not a nice or emotion-sharing one.

That's how my book is. Harsh. Not like all the other books on this topic.

I have seriously had thoughts about whether I have a cold heart because of how I am. Not fitting in well with what most other people with MH conditions do or seek to help them.

I might have one advantage over the majority: I am positive and hopeful. I don't have a depression in addition to my OCD. Makes me almost feel guilty. Especially because I have written a harsh book!

So, YES, thank you, I will definitely put that warning into my Amazon description box.

Thank you, ALL.

nightsmusic said...

Katja perhaps the saying I gave didn't originate in America. I never heard it until my Romanian father-in-law said it the first time. It's meant to convey though, that everyone is full of opinions. Sometimes, they're messy, inaccurate such as when you think you have a cold but blow your stuffy nose and it's really full of pollen. While I appreciate that this journalist, who covered something similar, gave you feedback, he's one person. His "nose" is no more right or wrong than anyone else's. He's giving an opinion and it's no different than the reviews that people get on Amazon or any other review site. Some are great, some are not. Don't be discouraged by ONE person's opinion!

So write the book of your heart. Make it the very best you can. Be proud of it and don't let one person's opinion of it bring you down. You're such an encouragement with how hard you've worked to handle your OCD. Don't let anyone's opinion take that away from you.

Katja said...

I'll keep your words in mind, nightsmusic, thank you.

This journalist has given me a 'blurb' to use for marketing, but I know from my experience that a blurb sitting in my Amazon description box is most likely not going to help (at all).

The other book he helped and boosted is this one: "Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought" by Lily Bailey.

It is doing very well in the UK and US. And it was chosen as "A Washington Post Best Book of 2018"

“Lily Bailey is precocious.... she writes with a literary poise and a gift for mordant observation and self-deprecating humor that belie her youth. [ Because We Are Bad is] one of the best [books] I have read on the phenomenology of OCD.”
( Scott Stossel, the Washington Post)

It went 'everywhere' and also got picked up by Harper who published it in the US.

I read the first 8 chapters of it...

I guess I will have to let this go now and see how I can move on.

Thank you for listening to me! <3

nightsmusic said...

Katja, we're all here to listen, commiserate, agonize, celebrate with everyone on the reef. :)

I think it's important to remember, yours is a fictional account. This other book is a memoir. There's a huge difference and a difference in the way people can identify with either.

As to where you go from here, you write another book! Or two or three short stories. It doesn't matter. But you keep writing and something will strike a chord with you. But you never, ever quit. *hug*

Katja said...

Okay, nightsmusic, I'll try my best. Hug is much appreciated again.

Yes, I used fiction. The other one is narrative nonfiction or memoir. Also, the novels on this topic are mostly YA, not adult.

Plus, I know first hand that this author has connections to newspapers/journalists. I was lucky to get a response from one that helped me understand the speed of her success. She was able to build a great audience very quickly.

I know of several more cases, and wanted to comment the other day when marketing was mentioned somewhere but I got caught up in something else.

Yeah, my 2nd book... ha ha, it would be linked to Harsh Book. And it would be just as strange and warped. So I'll be the author of Harsh And Warped I and II, LOL.

Craig F said...

Katja, dear, though your book is expressly about OCD I don't think that is what it is really about. I will admit that I haven't read it, but I have read all of your posts about it.

It is about the relationship of two people with needs that align for a short time and what happens after those needs diverge. That will be big when you find the right person to move it on. Keep pushing it, it will find the right home,

Katja said...

Whoa, Craig, this:

"It is about the relationship of two people with needs that align for a short time and what happens after those needs diverge."


Although, it really is on OCD, this is STILL very true. And maybe I could 'sell' it as that, because the different needs and that the characters want very different things could be prompted by OCD or something else.

Yes, yes, you're right! Friend 1 (Finja) is first happy to do what friend 2 wants and asks for. She's okay with it. Sonja asks to change schools, Finja is a little shocked, starts being outraged but agrees.
Then Sonja wants to change cities. Then countries. At that point, Finja's sacrifices are much bigger, always having to leave behind what she's loved. But she knows she's dependent on Sonja.
Sonja also comes between Finja's romances. So there's a lot of conflict.

I can keep pushing, but it's already self-published, so it can't find a home any more.

But thank you for your support anyway!! <3

Katja said...

Oh, seems I can't comment any more. Maybe it's been too many times.

Unknown said...

I was surprised to see this happening, as I'm fairly new to Twitter. I recently saw one agent making fun of a flyer she got in the mail for a self published book event.

She said she should go just to see how much the flyers cost and if anyone showed up.

It angered me. That author is pouring out their heart and soul and money into their dream. And this agent, a gatekeeper to the goals of thousands, makes a public mockery of the author who reaches for that dream?

It turned me off of that whole agency.

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

THIS. It has almost completely turned me off the idea of ever submitting to an agent, when 98% of what I read from them is "Listen to how dumb this writer is." NO thanks, I'll continue with self-publishing.